Does your fab lab have these 3 essential tools?

Fab Labs are great places to build stuff. But what kinds of tools should a fab lab have? It doesn’t matter if you have millions of dollars or just a few thousand. With just these 3 tools, you will have everything you need to get started.

Laser Cutter

Number 1, a laser cutter. There are several different types of laser cutters, but the most common laser cutter is powered by CO2 are used to cut materials such as metal, plastic, paper, wood, fabric and even paper. The laser is created by running an electrical current through a chamber containing CO2 and other elements. The resulting beam is transmitted using mirrors to the material being cut. The part is stationary and the laser moves around on the X & Y axis to cut out the pattern you uploaded. Power of the laser is determined by the wattage, the higher the wattage the stronger and thicker the materials you can cut. Given the same material and thickness, a higher power laser can cut faster than a lower power laser. Laser cutters can also engrave materials rather than simply cutting through them. You can even create your own rubber stamps.

CNC Mill

Number 2, a CNC Mill or Milling machine. These machines use a milling cutter a (kind of like a drill bit) to remove portions of your material bit by bit. Like the like cutter, the material is held stationary and the cutting tool is moved around the part. Because the milling cutter can travel in the X, Y & Z axis they can be used to create complex 3 dimensional parts in metals, plastics and wood. Only a few years ago, computer numeric controlled mills cost a small fortune. But in the last several years smaller desktop versions have been released. You can even build your own.

3D Printer

Number 3, a 3D printer also known as a rapid prototyper. This works on a process referred to as “additive manufacturing” by placing material in the X & Y axis over successive layers. Because each layer is very thin, typically measured in tenths of millimeters…the process takes time. But unlike milling machines, there is very little waste and it’s even possible to design parts that cannot be built any other way. Plastic is most commonly used because of its low melting temperature, ease of handling and low cost of material. Though it is possible to print parts out of metal and ceramic now. While the technology is in its infancy, it promises to completely redefine the way products are designed and manufactured.

Previous post:

Next post: